Local News

Interpreters Help Bridge Language Barriers

Posted June 25, 1999

— Seven thousand athletes from 150 countries are in the Triangle for the Special Olympics World Games. They speak dozens of different languages, but a small army of volunteer interpreters will help them communicate with each other.

Bruno Huenermund is helping a Belarusan athlete get comfortable on the horse she will ride during the World Games. He was an interpreter for the Soviet team during the 1972Olympicsin Munich. Huenermund and his wife have a personal reason for volunteering their skills at the Special Olympics.

"We did not have a handicapped boy when I started in the Olympics," he says. "In the last 7 years we have had this boy and so we have leaned toward the Special Olympics."

The athletes need to find the right horse to ride during the equestrian events, but the language barrier makes it difficult for them to communicate their needs.

Huenermund is the link between Russian speaking coaches and English speaking organizers. He is one of 900 volunteer interpreters who together speak a total of 25 languages.

"They are everything from high school and college students to business people, nurses, professors, anybody and everybody who speaks another language," says Fran Hoch of the Special Olympic World Summer Games Language Services.

Joselyn Wellbrook is a technician atNortel. During the Games, she will translate for Spanish speaking teams.

"They said that if it was not for me, there was no way they could communicate," she explains.

Wellbrook has some experience as a translator, but she does not know much about horseback riding. She is getting a crash course in equestrian terms while she works with athletes from Paraguay and Uruguay.

"I have made them feel comfortable in a strange country, she says. "I know how that feels, so it has really been rewarding."

In addition to the 900 volunteers, there are eight professional interpreters working for the World Games. They do simultaneous translations at the daily meetings for delegation leaders.

Starting Monday, WRAL will broadcast nightly specials from 7:30 to 8 p.m. through Friday night. If you miss that, you can also catch a five-minute recap of the day's happenings every night after the 11:00 News.

Traffic will obviously be affected by the World Games. For updates throughout the day, you can checkTriangle Traffic. Some roads have been closed until the Games end, including Dan Allen Drive, Cates Avenue and Morrill Street, all in Raleigh.

The World Games end July 4.

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